In 2013 I tripped on the sidewalk and broke my leg. It was so bad that when the chief of orthopedic trauma at MGH saw my x-rays his response was, “Oh, that’s interesting!”
I learned that hearing that from a doctor is something you never want to hear. Took multiple surgeries to repair, almost a year of physical therapy til I could walk normally again, and is still a source of pain and frustration.
What helped get me through (and still keeps me going) was to celebrate the little things. I tied my own shoes for the first time? Yay! I took three steps unassisted? Whoo hoo! I stood up from the couch without help? Party!
People understand celebrating these tiny accomplishments when they come from an illness/injury they can see, like a broken limb. They celebrate with you.
But celebrating the little things becomes even more important when you’re the only one who is celebrating. When you’re the only one knows how huge those little things really are.
For the longest time, going to the gym was a major source of anxiety for me. I simply could not do it. One day, though, I decided I was going face my fears and go!
I got changed into my workout clothes. I filled my water bottle. I walked to the gym. I promptly had a panic attack and couldn’t bring myself to go inside.
And yet, I was proud of myself!
Did I accomplish my overall goal on that first day? No. But I took those things I did manage to do and I celebrated my ability to reach even those steps.
Those little things add up. The sense of pride I feel when I find myself doing one thing can lead to me feeling like maybe later I can do another, bigger thing. A thing that might otherwise have felt impossible. It took another 5 years before I managed to finally make it to the gym without suffering panic attacks. But I got there. Small step by small step.
Celebrating the little things also helps in other ways.
Say, for instance, I have a really bad day. I feel particularly useless. Worthless. Those lies my brain tells me? They come out in force on days like this.
So I buy myself some flowers. Or I come home to enjoy a glass of champagne. Because I know that there was at least one thing that day that I could celebrate, reminding myself that my day was not a waste of time.
- Maybe I did something nice to someone, and they smiled.
- Maybe I just had a good hair day.
- Maybe I did a thing that is hard for me.
- Maybe I can’t think of anything more than I’m still here.
The knowledge that “I’m still here” is the biggest little thing worthy of being celebrated every day. I can feel like everything around me has fallen apart and I’m the most broken person there is. But I’m still here. I celebrate that. Because I know, even if no one else does, just how hard that can be sometimes. And that keeps me going.